I must admit I have been a bit puzzled by some of the foods I’ve heard parents restrict from babies; nuts, eggs, wheat and watermelon, among many others. Of course the sources of this mis-information (often friends and family) generally mean well however their advice tends to add to the stress and confusion many parents face when it comes to feeding babies and toddlers.
In the past there have been various recommendations about the introduction of solid foods which stipulated the introduction of different foods at different times. For example, introduce vegetables before fruits, egg yolk before egg whites and avoid nut products before 12months of age.
Generally these recommendations were made to reduce the risk of food allergies; however the latest infant feeding guidelines (2013) present quality evidence to busts this myth.
According to the evidenced used to develop these guidelines delaying the introduction of solid foods until after the age of 6 months of age is associated with an increased risk of developing allergic response. This perspective is supported by the Australasian society of clinical Immunology and Allergy that has found little evidence that delaying the introduction of solids beyond 6 months reduces the risk of allergies, some evidence that delaying the introduction of foods may increase (rather than decrease) the risk of allergies, and, insufficient evidence to support previous advice to specifically delay or avoid potentially allergenic foods such as egg, peanuts, nuts, wheat, cow’s milk and fish to prevent food allergy or eczema (this also applies to infants with siblings who already have allergies to these foods). It is further acknowledged that, as with all aspects of nutrition, the evidence is continuing to evolve and there is still much to learn.
In light of this, according to these latest Infant Feeding Guidelines:
“As long as iron-rich foods are included in first foods, foods can be introduced in any order and at a rate that suits the infant.”
Although there are still a few considerations to keep in mind:
Choking hazards are obviously one; when referring to nuts for babies, I am NOT talking about whole nuts which would be an obvious chocking risk, but products which contain nuts such as nut pastes or meal.
Honey is another; which can contain the bacteria Clostridium botulinum and can cause botulism so is not suitable for children under 12 months.
Similarly, cows or other animal milk is not suitable as a complete milk drink (i.e as in instead of breast milk or formula) under the age of 12 months due to differences in protein concentrations, but it is fine to have in small amounts such as in cereal. (Reduced and low fat varieties of milk are not suitable under 2 years of age. Beyond appropriate milk drinks, only water should be offered to infants and children)
There is also no need to add salt or sugars to an infant’s food (nor anyone’s for that matter) and always opt for unprocessed foods.
So stress less about the do’s and don’ts of infant feeding, enjoy this special time and pave the way for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.